The Man Who Created His Own Language

There’s a recent article in the New Yorker that describes how one man created a language called Ithkuil.

“I worked on this in fits and starts,” he said, looking at the mass of documents. “It was very much dependent on whether I was dating anyone at the time. This isn’t exactly something you discuss on a first or second date.”

His language caught the interest of a Ukrainian university, which invited him to talk about it…

“I was surrounded by all these people hanging on my every word. It was intoxicating—especially for a loner like me,” Quijada said.


We were picked up at the airport by Alla Vishneva, an attractive brunette with streaks of bleached blond in her hair, with whom Quijada had been exchanging e-mails and phone calls intermittently for the past several months. Vishneva, a former professor of Ukrainian at Rivne State Humanitarian University and a student of psychonetics, was the founder of an Ithkuil study group in Kiev.


Quijada, who had been wearing a pair of Coke-bottle glasses and toting a cane to compensate for a leg injury, sized up her metallic silver boots and figure-hugging bluejeans and seemed taken aback. “What is a beautiful woman like you doing teaching Ithkuil?” he asked.

Vishneva chuckled and returned the compliment in stilted English: “Ithkuil is beautiful. It’s a very pure and logically constructed language.”

Quijada turned to me in the back seat of the car, visibly giddy. “It’s one thing for another conlanger to call your work beautiful, but for someone halfway around the world with a million better things to do to say that—you’ve got to pinch yourself. It makes it seem like thirty years of slaving away might have been worth it.

A man who spent decades creating a language finally thinks it’s worth only when it gets the attention of a beautiful woman. He was actually so enamored by Alla that he dedicated a future book to her.

In America he couldn’t even mention his invented language on a date for fear of being seen as a kook, but in Ukraine it helps garner the attention of a girl he’s smitten by. Only if he knew how to stuff his mouth full of hot dogs would he have gotten sexual recognition for his work back home. There’s a sociological lesson in this, somewhere.

Unfortunately, things take a weird turn for our hero when it turns out that the Ukrainian interest in his language comes from right wing nationalists who want to use his language to create a superhuman race. But hey, at least Alla warmed his heart.

From the article it’s clear that language creation is not as rare as you might think. The most famous invented language is Esperanto, created in 1887. It was seen as so subversive that people were executed in the Soviet Union for speaking it. While reading the language’s history, I came across this interesting fact:

Some more focused reform projects, affecting only a particular feature of the language, have gained a few adherents. One of these is “riism”, which modifies the language to incorporate non-sexist language and gender-neutral pronouns.

I see you, feminists! Esperanto, which sounds a bit like Italian, is interesting in that it has native speakers, including famous investor George Soros. Creating a language that people speak from birth… I’m sure the Esperanto creator would have had his own Ukrainian groupies as well.

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15 thoughts on “The Man Who Created His Own Language”

  1. Women generally don’t like men working hard on stuff; they only care if there is some sort of major social prestige involved. Successful businessmen’s wives leave them all the time. Read about John Paul Getty’s experience of having all of his wives divorce him.
    Sequoyah’s wife burned his work, setting him back a year or two in his quest to develop the Cherokee writing system.

  2. It’s a shame that all the time and energy invested in these fictional languages is not dedicated to Esperanto which has demonstrated its usefulness over many years.

    1. Uhhh no it hasn’t?
      Useful languages are “created” by speakers who are using it to communicate, it can’t be developed by government decree like esperanto, or some dork with a computer like this guy in the post.
      It may a technically sound language and even an admirable accomplishment but it won’t have any real impact if its developed in a lab setting.

      1. The best conlangs are made that way though. A clear goal(s) are set out and then worked towards until the projects completion. Lojban simply never could have come together were it left to fall together like a natural language.

    1. Yup. Tolkien was apparently a linguistic genius…I read somewhere that he always maintained that his books were just vehicles for him to express his interest in languages. He was fluent in Old English and Finnish.

  3. This was a great article, thanks for highlighting it. I love the range of subjects on this blog.
    I’d actually already read this article myself (without noticing the ‘sociological implications’). When I was reading it, though, I was on a sort of internet procrastination binge (something I’m in the middle of at the moment), and as cool as it was, I felt guilty, knowing I had other projects to work on. Even though this article was worth the read anyway, for every genuinely interesting article like this one, I spend at least as much time skimming through crap.
    Given that what you highlight here is only the tip of the iceberg, Roosh, it’s clear that read a lot of blogs and articles. You even keep an eye on a number of feminist blogs, don’t you? The New York Times, too. And yet it’s clear that you get a lot of work done. How do you structure this reading so as to not waste too much time? Is this something you plan out every morning the night before (a la The Easiest Way To Explode Your Productivity)?

    1. I don’t watch television or movies, so the time I used to spend time on that, I now devote to reading (articles, essays, blogs, books). An e-reader makes it much easier since it lessens distractions. I use the Send To Kindle app for Chrome when I come across an article that seems interesting.
      You’d be surprised how much you can read in two hours a day.

  4. >Finnish has exclusively gender-neutral pronouns. Feminist language?
    Finnish was invented way before Feminism, by men who were much more fierce and masculine than anything you can find today. Ever wondered why the Vikings conquered, raped and pillaged Ireland, Britain, France, Novgorod etc., but not their next door neighbor? Spoiler: they did try (it is mentioned in the Sagas) but got their ass kicked. Regarding gender-specific pronouns, they’re mostly waste of breath, remnant of the past.
    Regarding inventing languages, there’s a fresh, interesting “Anarchist” project by Dmitry Orlov to create a phonological form of writing English. The background of the project can be found at his website

  5. Sorry, I´ve always thought that invented languages were a waste of time. I dabbled in Esperanto back in the day, and it is no more difficult to master esperanto than a natural language once you go beyond the essentials. With the added difficulty that no one can really help you improve, save some nerd esperantists. These people are really weird cultists!
    It makes much more sense to revive actual dying langages with some linguistic merit, like Navajo or Dyirbal.
    Alternatively, why not revive Latin or Sanskrit? Latin is actualy easier to learn than say, Polish. You can probaly teach yourself to write and speak medieval Latin in less than five years (depending on your native tongue). Now, Cicero´s Latin is a league of its own. But Church latin is very easy. Koine Greek would also be excelent, though a bit more difficult (though less than Sanskrit).

  6. Esperanto recently had its World Youth Conference in the Ukraine with hundreds of participants. Quality but not quantity is Esperanto’s claim to fame. However, I estimate there are easily a thousand cities around the world with monthly meetings with local clubs. A hundred cities own offices, museums or community centers for/about Esperantists. In summers some 10,000-20,000 esperantists get together for week-long or week-end events. Perhaps a 100,000 Esperantists are active at the internet, be it Facebook, Ipernity, Twitter, Google +
    135,000 learners have signed up in the last decade to the free course at
    A few hundred quality websites exist using Esperanto. Thousands of Esperantists keep blogs. I run 4 blogs fully or partially about Esperanto. is my blog which describes, summarizes or translates into English many of the major accomplishments of the Esperanto movement—with links, films and music. Lastly, several heads of state, a pope, a UN ambassador , and numerous Nobel winners actively supported Esperanto. Not bad for 125 years of activity.

    1. Ne parolu kun tiu ĉi parazito amiko. Li ne eĉ meritas videton! Ne, Esperanto plibonas sen tiu ĉi retejo!

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